Curious Cats: Do Cats Always Land On Their Feet?

January 20, 2021

Curious Cats: Do Cats Always Land On Their Feet?

Have you ever heard of the famous saying, “Cats always land on their feet”?

Many people have observed cats survive from incredible heights and walk it off as if nothing happened. This has given cats the reputation of being able to survive anything because they land on their feet. 

But, is that saying true? 

Do cats know some kind of black magic that they always seem to land on their feet? In this blog post, we will answer the questions, “Do cats always land on their feet?” in detail and go over everything you may need to know about it. 

So, let’s jump right in! 

Do Cats Always Land On Their Feet? Here’s the Thing

Thanks to the righting reflex (an inbuilt balancing system in cats), your feline friend can orient herself during a free fall and lands on her feet. 

However, cats do not always land on their feet. It all depends on the height of the fall. 

The question, “Do cats always land on their feet?” has been piqued the curiosity of scientists since the 19th century. People first believed that cats were always able to land safely as they would push themselves off the person’s hand. 

The mystery was solved by Etienne-Jules Marey, a French scientist who used a chronophotographic camera to photograph a cat’s fall. This enabled him to watch a cat’s free fall in slow nothin and understand why cats always seem to land safely. 

What Makes Cats Land On Their Feet? All About The Righting Reflex

During a free fall, cats can turn their bodies rightward and land safely on their feet. 

This is all thanks to the vestibular system inside the cat’s ear—even we have it. The system allows orientation and balance, allowing the cat to figure out in which direction it needs to move its body and rotate its head. 

There’s another reason why cats seemed to be unharmed after scary falls. 

Your feline friend has a unique skeletal structure—they have a flexible backbone and no collarbone. This allows your cat to quickly correct its spine during a fall. As the back arches, the cat brings its feet underneath its body while the forepaws go close to the face to protect it. 

This reflex starts to show up when the kitten is about three weeks old. By style age of seven weeks, the reflex is completely developed. 

Don’t Count On It, Though. 

While cats can right themselves midair and land on their feet, they are not immune to falls or fall-related injuries. Certain falls can still be fatal to cats. 

Typically, the longer the fall, the safer a cat is. 

For example, a cat may sustain less severe injuries if she’s falling down five stories. However, she is prone to serious injuries is she falls down a couple of floors. 

Why so? 

The longer the free fall, the more time your cat has to position her body. 

A New York City study conducted in 1987 found that 90% of felines that had fallen from tall buildings could survive the fall. Most of them had severe injuries. However, cats that had fallen seven to 32 stories were less likely to pass away than those who fell from two to six stories. 

All in All: Do Cats Always Land On Their Feet? 

The short answer to this question is sometimes. 

The longer the free fall, the better able cats are to turn their bodies, thanks to the righting reflex, and land on their feet. However, shorter falls can be fatal to cats or can cause serious injuries. 

If you have an open balcony or terrace your cat can fall down  from, it is best to cover it to prevent any potential accidents. 

Keep in mind, prevention is better than the cure. 

Do you have any questions or concerns? Leave them in the comments, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

Have a question you need answered in a further blog post? We’re listening and open to suggestions! 

 


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